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[MARCH 5, 2004]  URBANA -- A five-year, $12 million research project on swine waste and odor management may have wrapped up, but that doesn't mean University of Illinois researchers have stopped looking for ways to boost the state's livestock industry and ag economy. Mike Ellis, a professor of swine management in the Department of Animal Sciences, indicated that technologies from that effort are being tested at the same time that new areas are being explored.

"We think that many of these have a huge potential impact for Illinois," he said.

Ellis headed a team of researchers at the U of I, Southern Illinois University and Illinois State University that addressed a broad range of questions related to swine waste and odor management under the five-year project initially funded by $6 million from the Illinois Council on Food and Agricultural Research. Ellis and the other researchers were able to "leverage" that amount into an additional $12 million from other sources.

"There were a number of technologies developed for controlling swine waste and odor during that project, which officially concluded last June 30," he said. "Some are actually now in commercial use; others are being tested. Additionally, there are also a number of ideas needing further development before they can go to the testing stage."

And some of the original projects are being continued with new funding, including a large-scale project establishing baseline emissions from typical swine facilities in Illinois. Results will be used to set emission standards. Another project, an anaerobic digester for waste disposal, will be tested in a pilot plant in southern Illinois. This idea was developed by Dr. Jim Blackburn at Southern Illinois University.

"Richard Masel, a professor of chemical engineering, is working with catalytic converters, which could be a potentially very useful technology in controlling swine odor," said Ellis.

However, as these projects wrap up, researchers are moving into new areas.

"Most of our efforts have been aimed at retrofitting existing swine production facilities with equipment and technologies that can help control and/or reduce waste and odor problems," said Ellis. "This is important because producers need affordable methods to address these problems. However, we are also looking at new ways to design swine production facilities that could help address the problems."


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Another cooperative effort of great potential for all the state's livestock producers has been launched with federal funding. The Integrated Crop and Livestock Program involves researchers in the departments of Crop Sciences, Animal Sciences, and Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

"The concept is simple -- try to retain nutrients in livestock manure in order to increase its value as fertilizer," said Ellis. "This can have a double impact. Not only do you get better fertilizer by retaining more nutrients in the manure, but by retaining more nitrogen you lessen the emissions from the manure."

Bob Hoeft, a professor of crop sciences who is leading this effort, refers to the concept as "designer manure."

The catchy title has significant potential for Illinois, where the livestock industry has been stressed for some time.

"Illinois has good cropland composed of soils that can absorb and utilize the waste as fertilizer," said Ellis. "An economically feasible way to do this would be extremely helpful to agricultural producers. A producer could raise livestock and apply the waste to the cropland, fertilizing the crop and reducing the waste and odor problem at the same time.

"The economic potential for Illinois if this succeeds is huge."

While federal funds have provided a startup for the project, Ellis believes it will eventually require an initiative comparable to the Illinois project on swine waste and odor management in order to succeed.

"We'll need another initiative of a sizable nature to tackle all the aspects of the Integrated Crop and Livestock Program," he said.

[University of Illinois news release]

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